Thursday, 12 July 2012

SA Rockin' and Poppin' and other musical movings

A while back, a French friend of mine asked me to put together a CD of South African music for him. I've been picking and choosing and finally got together a group of lekker SA tunes. This little project has renewed my appreciation for South African music. Listening to the CD in my car, I was embued with a wonderful feeling of pride in the calibre of music my countrymen and -women are capable of producing. We're just as good, if not better, than many of the Americans. Plus our country is smaller... So, I decided to do a little ode-to-SA-music scribbling (this blog gave me the idea). Please note that the following groups/artists are just some of the great SA bands, mostly as with regards to my taste in music. I fully realise that I am neglecting many sterling performers. I have asked around for people's favourite SA musicians to try an incorporate the opinions of others - it's not my fault few responded. So vasbyt. And hopefully enjoy.

Note: Musicians following in alphabetical order so as not to make my OCD explode

  • The Bats (1964 - present [kinda])  I can't even find a wiki page on these guys but I've been to see them a few years ago and they are old-school-cool. Even if you don't know the band, as a South African you may at least have heard of Eddie Eckstein... These guys are hardly the best thing to come out of SA but in compiling the CD, I was perusing their music and found a cool song from 1968 about our national rugby team - Groen en Goud (Green and Gold for you non-Afrikaans readers). As you may guess from the title it's in Afrikaans and there is something so great about listening to Afrikaans Treffers. I used to hate them - I thought they were some of the worst songs to ever be made - but as I've gotten older I've gained an appreciation for them. Yes, the appreciation is mainly based on ripping them off because, on the whole, they sound delightfully ridiculous. But there is something to be said for any music that can make you fantasically brightly happy just by listening to it. And that's what I felt when I heard that song. Vat hom Frikkie!


  • Coleske (1994 - 2001) I've never known much about this pair except that they are brothers. I started listening to them, like a lot of the music I listen to, via my parents and found that I really enjoyed their stuff. I remember my sister using their song Aphrodite as her audition piece for a school musical. She got the part. The song of theirs that I put on the CD is called Uyangihlanyisa but I can't find an online link to it so you can hear it. It's awesome though. Truly.


  • Disporter (20?? - present)  I had to put these guys on the CD since I dig their music and I happen to know the guys in the band, some really really well. I'd be lying if I told you I knew exactly when they started up, but I first saw them in (I think) 2009, maybe early 2010 and they'd been around before that. They are new on the SA music scene and are from good ol' KZN, Pietermaritburg to be exact. Considering the other KZN bands in this list I say they have a lot of inspiration going for them. Their style is rock, though what brand of rock I couldn't hope to tell you. I know John, the lead singer (far left), once told me that they are heavily influenced by Alter Bridge. All I know for sure is that when I listen to the final CD product (naturally testing it before sending it to France for my friend) and I hear all these well-known songs from famous bands, and then a Disporter song comes on and while singing along I can't help but be filled with pride for this group of guys. To think I met some of them in physics labs...

    Songs:        Faster As We Go   Faster As We Go          Sing Me To Sleep   Sing Me To Sleep


  • Freshly Ground (2002 - present) This group makes music that's described as a mix of Jazz, Afropop, Indie Pop and Folk. Although not all members are Saffas (some are from other our neighbouring countries) the band formed in Cape Town so we'll own that. Their first album came out in 2003 but looking at their discography, I only became cognisant to their existance with their spreads-like-wildfire hit Doo Bee Doo which was only on their second album a year later. My ignorance not withstanding, these guys have very groovy tunes. Plus they recorded a song with Shakira and it became the theme song for the proud moment that was the 2010 Soccer World Cup. So big ups to Freshly Ground!

    Songs:         Pot Belly    Pot Belly         


  • Goldfish (2004 - present) This Cape Town duo of Dominic Peters and David Poole have made some serious waves in the Electronica and Dance music world, possibly spilling over into the Indie vibe - I am hopeless at catagorising music these days. Their first CD came out in 2006 but they were mixing it up chilled-style before then. In a very short time they've gone from jamming in a tiny Cape town beach club to Amsterdam's Olympic Stadium as the headliner. Pretty impressive. I find some of their songs much better than others, but then again I've never been an electronica fundi. Favourites for me would have to be Mbira BeatCruising Through and The Real Deal. There are a few others but these will do for now.

    Songs:        Cruising Through   Cruising Through          Mbira Beat   Mbira Beat          The Real Deal   The Real Deal


  • Goodluck (2010 - present) According to wiki, these guys are electro-swing. Ever heard of that? A relatively new band, also from Cape Town, first song of theirs I ever heard (and the one I will introduce to the Frenchman) has me alternatively happy and sad whenever I heard it. There was a period of time when I would switch off the radio rather than listen to Hop On Hop Off (personal drama) but it is a very cool song and now that time has passed I can enjoy it and bop my head along with all the others. I've listened to interviews with the lead singer and she seems a pretty cool chickibee so that's all good. For now they are trying to break into the international market. I'll have to google to see how well that's going.


  • Johnny Clegg (1979 - present) If you have never heard of Johnny Clegg and Juluka or Savuka, where have you been?! Regardless, there's no time like the present. his music is a blend of Western sounds and African rhythm and I've yet to come across another band who has been as successful with this. He was very good at pissing off the Apartheid government and has recently been formally acknowledged for his role in fighting the old South African regime, among other things. In my travels i have found that of all distinctly Saffa bands, JC and Juluka/Savuka are the best known by foreigners. And for good reason. Their songs Great Heart or African Sky Blue are sure to ignite fire in your soul and get the rhythm beating. Then there is Impi which has become a favourite at SA rugby games - when we hear it we can't help but pound our fists and shout out our pride. I didn't have to put any of his music on the CD because the frenchman already knew all about him; in this way it was a stroke of luck as it left space for bands unknown to him.

    Scatterlings of Africas   Scatterlings of Africa          Cruel Crazy Beautiful World (Live)   Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World
    Impi   Impi           African Sky Blue   African Sky Blue (this song gives me goosebumps)


  • Just Jinger (1996 - present) It's meant to be 'Just Jinjer' now but it irritates me that they had to change the spelling of their name because the Americans couldn't figure out how to pronounce it. They surely say 'ginger' with 'j' sounds, so how hard could 'Jinger' be?! On to the music: I'm very proud to claim these guys as South African. They have many, many, many famous songs but the one I chose to put on the CD is a lovely one that's about South Africa itself, which I thought quaint.

    Songs:        Table Talk   Table Talk          


  • Mafikizolo (????) Going through my music collection one day I found a song simply titled 'Hambanawe', listened to it and loved it instantly. So I went online, looked up who sang it and voila! Mafikizolo: a name I'd recognised but had never been able to attribute any specific song to them. I've just done some further youtube searching and found another of their songs, Kwela, which I think is worth a listen. I added Hambanawe to the CD for some true African rhythm (although it's more new-age than the traditional stuff). Somtimes I confuse these guys with Mandoza - only because of one song. But no, Mandoza is the guy who sings (raps?) the song that all white men jam to during office parties (according to MTN). Which is an awesome tune for me by the way. Now thinking I should have added it to the CD.... Damn.


  • Mango Groove (1984 - present) Originally from Jo'burg this is an 11-member Afropop band. I am sad to say that I missed these guys when they performed at the Durban Bot Gardens about a month ago. I had intended to go but ended up being a scrooge. I heard them from my flat at least, so got the music without the price ticket. Ayoba! When I was discussing SA music with my French friend I told him about this group and we youtubed them. By the end of my trip he had a CD with a lot of their music, many songs of which I had never heard. So, he got bitten by the MG bug. Maybe you will be too.

    Songs:         Dance Sum More    Dance Sum More           Special Star    Special Star          


  • The Parlotones (2002 - present) Always recognisable by lead singer Kahn Morbee and his weird make-up. Maybe they took a page from the playbooks of greats such as Alice Cooper and Kiss? Anyway, these guys started out in Jo'burg and within a year they had a huge following all over SA. I admit that at first I found their style rather whiny but they grew on me. I saw them live in Durban back in 2008 or so - not too shabby though they will never be a favourite of mine. I put them on this list because even if I don't have all theirs songs on repeat, they are loved by many both at home and abroad. They're even  involved in wine branding now.... 

    Songs:         Push Me To The Floor   Push Me To The Floor


  • PJ Powers (1987 - present) A Durban-born golden oldie from before I was born, I remember her coming to perform at my primary school in Johannesburg when I was 6. Full of energy is how I remember it. And bouncy tunes. She's also know in SA as 'Thandeka' meaning the loved one. To the best of my knowledge she is most famous for her World in Union rendition (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) which was played for some or other Rugby World Cup. I didn't put any of her music on the CD as I couldn't access any, but I still think she deserves a mention. Funky lady :)


  • Plush (2003 - present with a blip in between) I suppose I should have known about this band far sooner than I did , considering we have the same home town (PMB). Their success in the music biz was marred by the loss of their lead guitarist, Chas. He died in a hit-and-run accident outside of PMB's jock club, Crowded House. I've noted that in all the articles about Plush online that I've read, none of them mention that it was outside a club. To keep his name clean, to the best of my knowledge he wasn't drunk - it was a speeding driver. Anyhoo, It's surreal because some of my friends were friends of Chas' and all I saw was the weeping and people telling me the SA music world was mourning. Having listened to their stuff a few years since then, I admit some of it is pretty good. Chill music. Don't like all of it though. To each their own.

    Songs:        Sky Fire (Live & Unplugged)   Sky Fire          Erla   Erla          Damn the Fire   Damn The Fire


  • Prime Circle (2000 - present) Ok, I don't know what I can say about these guys out of Witbank. They were cooler back in the day - I sometimes feel they've gone too mainstream. Rock bands have to be so careful not to blend in and lose their X-factor. If not gone, theirs is dwindling. But, I own a CD of theirs, with a DVD. And some of their newer stuff isn't a complete write-off. Maybe I just need to listen to more of the new-new stuff (I just looked it up and their latest album won a bunch of awards so I might be forming an opinion too soon...)


  • Seether (ex-Saron Gas) () Another PMB original... By the time I heard my first song from this band, they had already renamed themselves. I am too lazy to google as to why they did that but I think it was something to do with their relocation to America where they became famous. Maybe. Anyhoo, I will always remember this band as the one my mother wouldn't let me listen to. I was about 13 when I was lent one of their CDs. It was passed to me via my mother so naturally she'd listened to it before I could. She freaked. I think it was more because of the lyrics than the sound of the music. Heaven forbid I'd started listening to Bloodhound Gang back then! The album was Disclaimer II and to this day I love putting it loud in my car and rocking out. It's brilliant for when I'm angry. Below are two of my favourite songs but that's by no means the only ones.

    Songs:        69 Tea   69 Tea          Gasoline   Gasoline         


  • Sitter (2003 - present) And we end with yet ANOTHER KwaZulu-Natal classic. These guys are from Durban and I was first introduced to them in 2009 when a friend gave me a CD of theirs. I hadn't listened to them in years but I found it again when I was busy compiling this list (and looking for SA bands that rock out). Listening to their songs again, I really do like a lot of their stuff. It's been difficult to find streamed content of theirs online that I could link you to, but here is a sample from youtube. Also, visit their site. They have a great song called Blessed Contradictions which is very chilled. Also, Another Day is quite good...


Now that's the end of my listing but there are some bands or artists that still deserve mention. Most of the above artists were picked because of the following:

  1. they're South African, or at least started out that way;
  2. they would be relatively unknown to my French friend; and
  3. I like their music.
There are TONNES of others that meet criteria 1 and 3 but didn't make it onto the CD because my friend either knew of them, or I'd already introduced him to their music. If the CD had allowed more space so that 2 wasn't necessary, I'd have put songs from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto String Quartet, Mandoza, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and of course Mother Africa herself, Miriam Makeba. Plus some of the better Afrikaans musicians such as Arno Carstens. Perhaps too I'd put on some Leon Schuster just for laughs.... Then there's always Baby Tjoklits by Gerhard Steyn - I just played it and within the first few bars I was giggling with joy. Afrikaanse treffers grow on you. And I'm now getting strange looks because I'm simultaneously bopping and laughing to the chorus....


Friday, 6 July 2012

Sex, Drugs and, oh wait, the music's changed

DISCLAIMER: I was told that this blog post is defamatory to the characters herein. IT HAS LARGELY BEEN REWRITTEN and this is a NEWER VERSION OF AN OLDER POST. If you read the old one, good for you. That was MY view of things and should in no way be viewed as a wholey correct account of the world or of persons depicted therein. It has since been screened (and large chunks of it taken out) on request to protect identities.

I didn't remove it entirely because what is here now is still how I felt back then, and since this doesn't talk about anyone in particular, by name or by persona or label, I feel justified in keeping my views aired. If you disagree, you can comment. Oh, and sorry Binky for removing your comments - without doing so, this rewrite was pointless. 

We've all heard the (old?) saying that the last few decades of the 20th century were all about sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Well in some circles not much has changed. Except the music.

I have always been a good girl regarding the typical rebellious acts of teenagers: sleeping around, underage drinking, drug use, etc. Heck, I made sure I was legal before going to my first night club. So I think it's true to say that I've had a relatively sheltered upbringing and all the SD&RR knowledge was theoretical. Well. My eyes sure are opening. All the theoretical knowledge in the world won't prepare you for the real thing. I was fairly apathetic about moving back to KZN but what I didn't realise was how rotten the Durban underbelly was. I've heard that Joburg is SA's crime capital and Cape Town is the gay capital, but I hadn't taken seriously the statements of Durbs being the drug capital. That's changing.

I've been to restaurants in one of the most popular eating-out roads in Durban where baggies (not the swimming trunks) were being bought and compared right in the open; friends have seen Snow White being sniffed off bar counters at some of the popular pubs; heard stories of MDMA being popped into people's mouths in clubs. And those are the tame stories. I've had (not-entirely-sure-they're-of-legal-age) boys being freaked out by my sudden appearance because they're reacting to the one or more 'enhancements' they've taken. I've driven someone home who had a sudden onset of acute paranoia - a side effect from a green and gold party in his stomach - and he is what may be termed an experienced partier.

I write this because I have a friend who is important to me but I don't approve of many of their activities, although I admit to becoming complacent about certain issues - something I'm dismayed at a lot of the time, although I don't quite know how to reverse it. My patience is starting to fray. Quickly. I think I would have been at this point much sooner if I hadn't been away from my South African friends for so much in the last 8 months. I will never know the half of what happened while I was away (and I don't want to know) but seeing some of the stuff that goes down now, I'm beginning to lose my rag.

Now it's not like my friend is a bad person; quite the contrary. They have been an awesome friend to me at times, particularly during my personal upheaval this year. On that note, what I find really sad is that the calibre of people I know who are part of this world of using is actually pretty high - out of the people I now know who use, whether it's having the chilled joint, walking the path to chronic nosebleeds or somewhere in between, about 80% of them are good looking, intelligent, and relatively cool people to know when they aren't flying kites. So yes they are some decent darn people, if you ignore the drug thing that is. Problem is, ignoring the drug thing is nigh impossible. You may be able to overlook it for a while but that is going to crash and burn eventually. Knowing someone who tried dating someone who smoked weed. Ultimately it became the reason (or at least a large part of it) that they went splitsville. I have yet to see a successful partnership where only one of the two takes part in drug-related activities. If both do, then hooray, that's something they can share with each other. Whoop-de-freaking-do.

A friendship is still a relationship. I worry that we're in danger of the above coming true. I'm starting to feel like I cannot deal with a lot of what they bring into my life. So. Not sure where to go from here - I don't want to cut them out of my life - they are worth more than that, but I don't know how much longer I can deal. Maybe I'd have less of a problem if the Rock 'n Roll was still in the picture. But no. It's Trance and Dubstep. Great.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

So they may have found the Higgs....

The CMS detector - ain't it cool?!
I can say without shame that I wish I'd gotten into work earlier today: 09h30 didn't quite cut it. As many people may know, today at 09h00 SAST, CERN began their live announcements about their most recent subatomic particle find. Long story short, they've found a new particle with over 120 GeV mass which is concordant with the parameters of a Higgs Boson. The big deal though is that this is a 4.9 sigma detection (that's high) AND it's preliminary which to my mind means there's a chance of it getting better once they have more data.

I won't bother to go through all the details - a pretty good article about it can be found here. Of course, as with most scientific discoveries, a positive experiment is not proof - this particle may be something other than a Higgs - but I still think it's remarkable and today will become a historic day for science. One of the physicists who had the idea back in the 1960s was invited to the conference in Geneva, Switzerland and seeing his face after the announcement, and the face of many of the snowy-haired gentleman in the crowd who were part of the first group of theorists who drove the idea of this particle's existence and the need for the LHC, it made me really happy for them that they got to see such a result in their lifetimes.

Well done CERN. Well done CMS and ATLAS. Well done to the LHC. And remember people, the world did NOT get swallowed by a black hole being created at the flipping of a few switches. It's a good thing scientists are stubborn.